Hot New Things 2020 – Angela Coote, AUT

2 years ago by

Each summer DA profiles a selection of the top design graduates coming out of our tertiary institutions. We welcome these talented emerging professionals to our industry, learn about their passions, final projects and dreams for the future.

Today we speak with Angela Coote from AUT

Was there someone (or something) that inspired you to pick design as a career path?

I fell into design somewhat unintentionally – design is this intersection between psychology, business, art, communication, which is beautiful. I’d say design picked me.

You completed your full time studies at the end of 2019. Can you tell us what your final year’s project focussed on?

My project ‘Flexible Thinking’ is situated as a practice lead design exploration, which evolved from a personal interest into creative problem solving. We do live in a very problematic world. An in-depth research phase informed the decisions around content, form, and function to become a beneficial educational resource – a designed experience in bringing the body to the forefront of the creative process. It creates a physical space to shape ideas, providing disruptive prompts as starting points for ideation, driven by play. The act of play is synonymous with creation, you are in a low risk environment and able to think more laterally because it is ‘safe.’ As children we learn through physical play, but as we grow – this gets lost. Following on from the concept of physical play, movement of the body and use of artefacts are imperative to access higher levels discovery. By using the body and hands to touch materials, interact, and form ideas, we are bypassing the brains automatic judgments and connections to previous knowledge. From here, we establish a deeper level of thinking, and are able to pursue many alternative opportunities.

What were some of your most exciting or unexpected discoveries to come out of your project?

I had a strong emotional learning that relates to detaching yourself from your work. I had spent weeks perfecting my typeface ‘Deviate’ and then realised it wasn’t right for the content. So I had this failure but instead of that, I adapted it into a feature. It became a structural base to the use as a playful element, distorting each letterform individually. I’d recommend it as an exercise actually, go destroy something you worked really hard on, see what happens.

What did you love doing most?

I love bringing things to life in as many mediums as possible. I probably have the most hands on process of anyone and love starting with paper, pens, scissors and then bringing it into a digital space, and then back to analogue. It’s all in the experimenting and refining. I love being immersed in what I do and being able to adapt so quickly in my creative process.

What was your biggest challenge while studying and how did you overcome it?

My biggest challenge has always been internal, I never felt like I was talented enough at design or fit in as a designer (being a country bumpkin). A turning point was harnessing that resourcefulness and changing how I personally define success – now framing myself as a constant learner.

How has your ability and confidence progressed since the beginning of your studies?

This is an interesting one. Looking back at my 16 year old self who had learnt the word kerning and felt like the coolest design nerd ever, my confidence is actually lower but my abilities are leaps and bounds further. Accepting challenges and taking risks is a big part of designing and for this you can’t get too comfortable and confident, it’s really turbulent I find, and mental health does suffer. There should be more conversations around this.

How do you see your work and practice developing, and what are your main aspirations?

I’ve realised that people; users, clients, collaborators; people, are the core of my practice. Centering myself with this in mind, my only hope is that throughout my career I am able to provide intentional design, benefit/help people. My dream is to one day be able to educate and share knowledge.

Which piece in your portfolio are you most proud of and why?

The one that makes me smile is ‘UP’ a rebrand case study for ‘New Zealand Music Month.’ I’m proud because I can confidently say it was the best team project, ever. I think that when you’re passionate about what you do and working with people who share the same vision, the results are second to none. We went in as designers and came out life-long friends.

What does your dream job look like?

Visualise a super creative, energetic space. I’d love to have a diverse career being able to work in smaller studios for really passionate clients. Lies, actually, pay me to work on personal projects for the rest of my life, that’s the dream.

Why did you choose to study at your design school, and what do you feel you can take away now that you’ve completed your course?

I had a really amazing design teacher in high school who said “Oh AUT is the only place to go,” it was an easy sell. I’m also lucky to have had many amazing tutors while at AUT. A take away is to give every experience your all.

Where to next for you? What does 2020 hold?

Trusting that the right thing will fall into place soon, but also trusting in the unknown of where I could end up… That’s if someone can drag me away from the beach.

How can people get in touch and see more of your work?

Feel free to drop me a line at and my portfolio or my design alter-ego @ampersand.ange. I’ll also be attending as many DA events as possible so say hello!


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